Ruth Bader Ginsburg Expresses Support for New Law Clerk Hiring Plan

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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (2015). Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi/ ALM U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently became the second justice to voice support publicly for the new federal law clerk hiring plan. Ginsburg spoke favorably of the plan last week during a meeting of the Federal Judges Association in Washington, the National Law Journal confirmed through a spokesperson for the high court. Last month, Justice Elena Kagan said she supports the two-year pilot plan and will “take into account” in her own hiring whether judges and law schools comply with it. Kagan spoke favorably of the program April 30 at the annual meeting of the Seventh Circuit Bar Association. In her remarks, she described the chaos surrounding the former hiring process. The new plan is the work of the Ad Hoc Committee on Law Clerk Hiring, led by Chief Judges Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; Robert Katzmann of the Second Circuit; Sidney Thomas of the Ninth Circuit, and Diane Wood of the Seventh Circuit. Their circuit court websites announce they are following the new plan. The deans of more than 100 law schools endorsed, in a letter published in September, the effort to move the clerkship hiring to a date after the completion of a law student’s second year. That is what the new hiring plan does. Starting with students who entered law school in 2017, the application and hiring process will not begin until after a law student’s second year. Judges will not seek or accept formal or informal clerkship applications, seek or accept formal or informal recommendations, conduct formal or informal interviews, or make any offers before June 17, 2019. For those students who enter law school in 2018, the starting date will be June 15, 2020. Trevor Morrison, dean of New York University Law School, spearheaded the law school letter with Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken. The signatories said the “accelerated hiring schedule” in recent years “undermined our faculties’ ability to provide judges with the information they need to make wise hiring choices.” Morrison told the National Law Journal last week he is hopeful support from influential judges, including those on the Supreme Court, will have an impact on the willingness of law schools and judges to follow the plan. Whether all of the deans who signed the September letter will urge their faculties to abide by the new plan is not yet known. Stanford Law Dean Elizabeth Magill on May 11 announced:

“I have advised faculty not to write letters of recommendations for 1L students and not to place calls to judges to advocate for those students. Acting in good faith—on the expectation of the full participation of other law schools in the interests of all of our students—we have assured our students in the Class of 2020 that they need not and should not begin the clerkship application process. We will do everything we can to make sure that those judges who participate in the plan will not be disadvantaged by that commitment. To this end, we strongly encourage judges and circuits to identify themselves as participating in the plan, just as law schools have identified themselves as supporting institutions.”

OSCAR, the portal for clerk applications and recommendations, has an adjusted application release date to be consistent with the new plan. After June 2020, judges who participated will reconsider the pilot plan.   Read more:Kagan Says She’ll ‘Take Into Account’ Whether Judges Follow New Clerk Hiring PlanShut Out: SCOTUS Law Clerks Still Mostly White and MaleA Look Inside the Elite World of Supreme Court Law Clerks

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